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Abbott suspends elective surgeries in Austin, pauses Texas reopening as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations rise
Austin-area hospitals have seen an increase in admissions. (Travis County COVID-19 dashboard)

Amid what he called a "massive outbreak" of new COVID-19 cases. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order suspending elective surgeries at hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties.


"These four counties have experienced significant increases in people being hospitalized due to COVID-19 and today's action is a precautionary step to ensure that the hospitals in these counties continue to have ample supply of available beds to treat COVID-19 patients," Abbott said in a statement issued this morning.

All hospitals in these areas are directed to postpone surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary.

Abbott implemented the same order earlier in the pandemic, which freed up hospital capacity but also led to a sharp drop in revenue for providers and 1,200 layoffs at Baylor Scott & White Health.

Austin's hospital capacity

Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said Travis County could see its caseload double in the next 18 days and area hospital capacity overwhelmed by mid-July at a virtual press conference yesterday.

Unless the rising curve of COVID cases is not flattened soon, Dr. Escott said he would have to recommend a second shutdown to local elected officials.

Austin's three major hospital systems—Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David's HealthCare—issued a joint statement Wednesday, before the governor's order.

The three hospital systems have 2,470 staffed beds, 71% of which were occupied as of Wednesday night; together they also have 483 ICU beds, 70% of which were occupied.

The surge plan

The systems can increase their total bed capacity to 3,250 beds, but "it would require staffing that exceeds what we typically have available for daily operations," per the statement.

The city released a three-stage surge plan in early April, which includes establishing additional hospital beds.

Although the city has not identified where field hospitals may be, local physicians said that hospitals have been planning for such a contingency for months.

"We do not want to provide care for you at the Austin Convention Center," Dr. Kirsten Nieto, an internal medicine and pediatric hospitalist at Dell Children's and Dell Seton, said at yesterday's press conference. "We want you to stay home."

Reopening

Abbott also announced Thursday that he is temporarily pausing the state's reopening.

"The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses," he said in a separate statement. "This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business."

This pause does not change any previous developments, which include allowing restaurants to increase capacity to 75% and amusement parks to reopen.

This article has been updated with the announcement about pausing the reopening process.

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🗓 Thursday

🍹  Margarita Madness

I’m holding two drinks in my hands but only one can be named next top margarita. Join in on a bracket-style competition running throughout the month to try all eight margaritas—this week serving samples of the winners from week one and two. Tickets start at $18.

3-9 p.m. Thursday-Sunday | 📍Desert Door Distillery, 211 Darden Hill Rd.

🥩 Hotel Granduca Steak & Bourbon Long Table Dinner

Enjoy a multi-course, long table-style dinner at Hotel Granduca’s signature restaurant. Choose between the linz heritage angus ribeye or crab and lobster risotto, enjoy curated bourbon pairings and relax in luxury along to live music. Tickets are $95 per person.

5:30 p.m. Thursday | 📍Visconti Ristorante & Bar, 320 S. Capital of Texas Hwy.

🖼 Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition

Take a culinary tour around the Italian peninsula with food, wine, art and a guided audio tour around some of “Rome’s most cherished frescoes.” Tickets start at $89.

7:30-10 p.m. Thursday | 📍Paddock Events Center, 9201 Circuit of The Americas Blvd.

🗓 Friday

🎉 Austin’s Birthday Bash

Get a good ol’ food truck dinner and catch Roll On Over, a roller-skating performance by Ignite on Wheels at Republic Square on Friday. Stop by again on Saturday for I’ve Got 5 On It for some hip hop and other entertainment in the park headlined by SaulPaul. Happy Birthday, Austin!

6-9 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday | 📍Republic Square, 422 Guadalupe St.

🎸 Norman Seeff: 'Fifty Years in Exile'

This rare, never-before-seen collection of photos from photographer Norman Seeff features vintage shots from his session with The Rolling Stones in 1972. The exhibit will run through the end of September in celebration of the band’s 50th anniversary of “Exile on Main St.”

7 -10 p.m. Friday | 📍Modern Rocks, 916 Springdale Rd.

🗓 Saturday

🏳️‍🌈 Austin Pride 2022: Beyond the Rainbow

Pride is back for the first time since 2019. Start the party early at Fiesta Gardens with Drag Queen Story Time, over 100 local vendors, carnival games and a headlining performance from Cupcakke. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 ages 7-17 and free for kids under 6.

11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday | 📍Fiesta Gardens, 2101 Jesse E Segovia St.

🥳 “Deep in the Heart of Pride” Watch Party

OR watch the festivities from a bird’s eye view on top of one of the only terraces overlooking the parade with a Sonesta Pride-themed cocktail. Standing room is $10, or reserve a table for $25 or $50 depending on the terrace. Proceeds go to benefit LGBTQ+ nonprofit OutYouth.

8-11 p.m. Saturday | 📍The Stephen F Austin Royal Sonesta Hotel, 701 Congress Ave.